Women will go out
At 5pm in your city today, people fighting for gender justice will walk together
You could say it started when a woman in Bengaluru was groped by two men on a scooter, a day after several women in the city were reportedly groped and molested on the roads on New Year’s eve. You could say it started when three academicians chose to write a book titled Why Loiter?: Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets in 2011, which argued that the lack of women in public spaces was a feminist matter. You could say it started when signatories of the marches planned across the country on 21 January—20 cities at last count—decided to register their protest against the normalcy of abuse, harassment, and/or sexual violence. You could say it started with judicial verdicts like the one which acquitted the accused in the rape of Mathura, a young Adivasi, and which led to widespread outrage in the 1970s and 1980s. This led to the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act of 1983. You could say the outrage was voiced, once again, after the horrific act of sexual violence committed against a young physiotherapy student in Delhi in 2012. She died some days later as a result of the brutality. Several protests were organized in the months following her death, under the banner of “Reclaim The Night".
What matters is that the zeitgeist of our times—the fight for the recognition of equal rights for differing genders and sexualities—will reverberate again from all corners of the country. Today, women in cities across states ranging from Assam and Uttar Pradesh to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, will gather at 5pm to register their protest. The line common to all these protests is “I will go out": It’s the hashtag that organizers are using to promote the events on social media platforms; it’s also a statement of defiance, for it clearly places the onus of assault not on the survivor, but the perpetrator.
According to 2015 data from National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), 327,394 crimes were committed against women; the conviction rate was 21.7%. Though the number of crimes actually reported has gone up over the past decade, a low conviction rate is indicative of far more than poor investigative skills; it is the pervasive attitude, that gender subjugation is legitimate, which needs to be challenged.
In the immediate aftermath of the Bengaluru incident, many protests were organized in the city. On 16 January, Puducherry and Thrissur held marches. Over the past few weeks, Mint has run several articles on various aspects of gender inequality. Journalist Ammu Joseph wrote about how men are absolved of accountability for tackling the sexual violence epidemic; Paromita Roy, the deputy director (architecture) of the Delhi Development Authority, weighed in on what can make a city safer for women. Shilpa Phadke, one of the co-authors of Why Loiter?, wrote about why leisure and fun are feminist issues as well, since there is a clear difference in the way men and women access free time.
It’s a matter of who occupies public space and how, and is as applicable to women as it is to hawkers or tea-stall owners, men who have sex with men, and other persons belonging to low-income groups, among other marginalized communities. QueerAbad, the organizers of the “I Will Go Out" demonstration in Ahmedabad, for instance, want to present a platform for everyone to come together. For Anahita Sarabhai, 26, who started the online community for queer persons and allies in June, the fight against patriarchy is an “intersectional" one. “We have to stop thinking in silos. Unless we join forces, there is no way of changing a system that is inherently patriarchal.
“Forget being queer, being one half of the population, we’re scared to go outside," says Sarabhai, adding, “As women, we’re constantly living with an anxiety—we have to think about what to wear, our company, the time when we step out of the house, how we look, what kind of areas we are going to. We make so many of our decisions based on that; imagine the whole country realizing what that felt like."
For city-wise venue details, visit here